Monday, May 30, 2016

Oversight, Staffing, and Sale of Lands

Last Tuesday, Council held a special meeting to learn more about development charges, discuss project oversight and staffing of the new Community Centre, and move ahead on land sales / development.

Development Charges:
A Provincial expert in Development Charges affirmed that over the next 30 years, the Town is eligible to collect at least $12.1 million from the recreation services portion of the Town's Development Charges. Development Charges will also fully-fund all interest costs.

Because this revenue will only be for the indoor recreation services portion of the collectable Development Charges, funds will still be available to help pay for other growth related infrastructure throughout the Town – including roads, water, wastewater, fire services, library services, and transit.

Project Oversight:
Council approved establishing a Community Centre Oversight Committee that will ensure the project will be constructed on time and on budget. The small, volunteer Committee will supervise the project’s schedule, budget, quality of construction, final design, health and safety, and other risk mitigation measures. They will provide monthly reports to Council (and to the public at Council will consider the Committee’s terms of reference and members on June 6.

Council also approved the CAO’s recommendation to hire a financial specialist on contract (18 to 24 months) to oversee all financial elements of the Community Centre and the East Fonthill development. This dedicated position will not only provide constant financial management, but will also allow current staff to maintain the rest of the Town’s operations.

Staffing for the Centre:
The HR Director presented the first iteration of the proposed staffing needs to operate the Pelham Community Centre. The operating pro forma presented to Council in March – which shows it will cost approximately $110,000 (net) per year to operate the Centre – contained $611,699 for new staffing. While this first-draft shows 18 new staff – four (4) full-time, six (6) part-time, and eight (8) seasonal – staffing details will continue to be refined over the coming months as the Town prepares to open the facility.

Sale of Lands:
Council reviewed a comprehensive inventory of all the lands that could be considered and disposed of by the Town for development. Council further directed staff to develop a strategy, including the drafting of conceptual plans, for the sale the East Fonthill surplus lands (19.75 acres) and the Haist Street arena property (8.2 acres). Council also approved an Environmental Impact Study so that 12 tax-sale-lots owned by the Town on the unopened portion of Balfour Street (between Chantler and Webber Roads) might be sold.

Council continues to take steps to monitor and oversee the construction of the Community Centre and to ensure the financial plan is realized.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

New Municipal Drain Policies Approved

You may recall that last fall Town Staff sent out several notices requesting payment for maintenance done on some of the Town’s Municipal Drains. There were many questions about the bills and Staff even had to correct some bills.

Council listened to these concerns and directed Staff to hold an Open House in October to answer any questions or concerns.

As a follow-up, Council directed Staff to re-examine and revise the Town’s Municipal Drain policies and procedures. Council approved those policy changes on May 2.

A Municipal Drain is a legislated drainage system for a sub-watershed within the Town. Most municipal drains are either open ditches or closed systems such as pipes or tiles buried in the ground. While Municipal Drains are primarily located in rural agricultural areas, they can also drain parts of the Town’s urban areas. Some Municipal Drains could also include structures such as storm water detention ponds, culverts and bridges.

A Town may only create a Municipal Drain under the authority of the Drainage Act. Municipal Drains include three-key elements.

Community Project: Landowners who need to solve a drainage problem may submit a petition under the Drainage Act to request the establishment of a municipal drain. If certain criteria are met, the Town appoints an engineer to prepare a report, identifying the proposed solution to the problem and how the costs will be shared. The Act outlines various meetings and appeal stages before the community project can be approved.

Legal Solution: After any appeals, the municipality passes a by-law, adopting the solution. The municipality then has the authority and responsibility to construct the drain. The cost of the work is assessed to the lands in the watershed in the same ratios as contained within the engineer's report.

Municipal Infrastructure: Once constructed, a Municipal Drain becomes part of that municipality's infrastructure. The Town, through our drainage superintendent, is responsible for repairing and maintaining the municipal drain.

The new Municipal Drain Maintenance and Billing policy aims to ensure that drain maintenance and billing occurs in a consistent, fair and timely manner; this policy includes the provision that the Town must hold an annual Open House to inform the community about Municipal Drainage matters.

The new Municipal Drain Re-Apportion of Assessment policy helps ensure that the Town follows prescribed mechanisms to re-apportion the assessment of properties within a municipal drain watershed when lots are created or amended.

(To review the new policies, please click here.)

Thanks to those who worked together with the Town to improve our policies and procedures on this very important part of our Town’s infrastructure.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Answering Indoor Pool & Amendment Questions

Since Council recently approved moving forward with the construction of the Pelham Community Centre, some people have continued to ask questions. Here’s two of the most oft asked questions:

Why No Indoor Pool?
You will recall that since 1990 the community has consistently voiced a desire – through seven consultant studies and staff reports – for a new twin pad arena, new indoor pool facilities and other community facilities. But, when Council reviewed those reports in late-2012, we confirmed that “no significant or meaningful financial work was completed.”

So, the Town surveyed you and your neighbours about your needs, tested a business case, and developed an operating pro forma to satisfy those needs.

In 2013, the Town hired LeisurePlan, experts in community recreation planning, to conduct a statistically-significant resident survey about our community's needs and preferences. LeisurePlan used this survey to test the business case for various community facilities.

In January 2014, LeisurePlan reported that the number of potential members to use an indoor pool was only 50% of that required to financially support it. Further, they estimated that to make an indoor pool “financially viable” the Town would have to provide an operating subsidy “in the order of $1,000,000 per year.” Therefore, because of the high capital and operating costs and lack of sustaining demand, Council accepted LeisurePlan’s recommendation that the Town not provide an indoor pool facility.

Why Disallow An Amendment For a Single Pad Arena?
After receiving presentations and correspondence from residents and community representatives during our special Council meeting on April 25, Council deliberated a motion to move ahead with the construction of the Community Centre as designed.

When a Councillor tried to move an amendment to that motion to construct the Centre with only one arena, I had to rule the amendment “out of order.” Why? Because Council already approved designing the facility with two arenas.

You see, on July 6, 2015 Council received a business case report from Leisureplan showing that the sustaining demand exists to operate two arenas. As a result of that report, Council approved a motion that we design the Community Centre with two arenas so that both would operate when the building opens.

To change gears and enact what the April 25 proposed “amendment” tried to accomplish, Council would have had to 1) defeat the motion we were dealing with, 2) rescind the July 6, 2015 motion, 3) and direct that the Centre be re-designed with one arena and so that a second to be added later.

I am pleased that we are constructing a Community Centre based on a solid business case. And, I appreciate the ongoing interest from the community! For more information about the Pelham Community Centre, please go to

Monday, May 2, 2016

Next Steps for Pelham Community Centre

Public Meeting at Old Pelham Town Hall
Last Monday, Council held a public meeting at Old Pelham Town Hall about plans for the Pelham Community Centre.

We heard 17 passionate presentations (and received three) from individuals and groups representing thousands of from the community including the Pelham Seniors Advisory Committee, three youth sport associations, the Chamber of Commerce, the Niagara Building & Construction Trades Council, the Architectural Design Advisory Committee, and individual residents. Most presenters spoke about the need for the facility and their excitement on how the new Community Centre will dramatically improve our Town. A few individuals expressed reservations about the financing and questioned some elements of the facility.

In addition to the presentations, Council received 138 community letters and 22 online community engagement comments. The overwhelming majority of these letters (more than 125) and comments supported the Community Centre plan as presented more than a month before. Council also considered reports and recommendations from Staff.

Encouraged by the community support and excitement, Council approved the new Community Centre. (Please see official Town news release here.)

But, this decision doesn’t mean that we simply rest of our laurels. Rather, Council’s role changes from consultation and deliberation to oversight, approvals, and lobbying.

Together with the Treasurer, I asked the Town’s auditor to assist Staff in recommending best practices for overseeing the detailed design and construction of the Centre. Before the end-of-the-month Council will consider project and spending oversight options so that the Town can deliver the project on time and on budget.

We also directed Staff to apply for government grants when they become available. Last week, the Federal Government announced preliminary steps toward working with the Provinces for recreational and cultural project funding. When those grants open up, we will appeal to local MPs and MPPs and encourage you to do the same.

Council also directed Staff to present options for a comprehensive development and land-sale strategy before the end-of-the-month. This will not only include Town-owned lands in East Fonthill area, but lands in other parts of the Town too.

Because some Councillors wanted to better understand Development Charges, Council will also receive a presentation about DCs from the Provincial expert.

Finally, Council approved Memorandums of Understanding to negotiate long-term leases with Pelham Minor Hockey Association, Pelham Panther Basketball, Southern Tier Admirals AAA, Welland Raiders Minor Lacrosse Association, and Niagara Centre Figure Skating Club; Council will consider user-group leases over coming months.

After decades of community consultations, deliberations, analysis and planning, I am thrilled that we are taking action to construct a new Community Centre to serve residents of all ages for many, many years.